BOOK REVIEW: Cannibal Creek by Jon Athan

The title of Cannibal Creek, an extreme horror novel by Jon Athan, is the epitome of truth in advertising.

Cannibal Creek cover.jpg

There’s a creek with a community of inbred hillbilly cannibals living nearby in the remote West Virginia woods.

Enter the Bakers and Riveras, two families who arrive in an RV for a family camping trip not far from the creek.

I immediately tallied the numbers: four adults plus three children plus one teenage girl named Jasmine.

That’s potentially eight meals for the price of one book.

Wait a minute. There’s Jasmine’s boyfriend, Joshua, who’s secretly following the family in anticipation of a romantic rendezvous with his girlfriend when the parents are sleeping.

So, a potential ninth meal.

The first third of the book lacks any real action as it introduces the characters, which are typical middle-class Americans. They’re nothing special, but I like reading about ordinary folks facing extraordinary circumstances.

Then, with one shocking scene of unexpected tragedy, Cannibal Creek starts delivering the goods expected in a cannibal story as the surviving characters respond emotionally and instinctively to the unthinkable adversity.

Released August 31, 2017, Cannibal Creek is heavily inspired by classic horror movies, The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, so much so the book could’ve been titled The Woods Have Eyes.

But like a solid cover version of a favorite song, Cannibal Creek is respectful of the original material and a worthy addition to the cannibal horror subgenre.

 

 

 

 

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MUSIC REVIEW – Ein

Today we’re taking a look at the upcoming release “Lethargic Breakthrough” by French progressive black metal band Ein. Ein is a one-man band fronted by Nox, featuring multiple guest vocalists and a violinist to create their debut release. Taking a unique approach to the genre, Nox’s black metal release implicates elements of death metal, atmospheric ambience, noise, and syncopated rhythms and time signatures. These elements make this a standout release worth of any extreme metal fan’s catalogue.

While the release features non-traditional elements of melody and rhythm, it doesn’t make the music any less accessible. The guitar lines are memorable, abrasive but beautiful, and an overtone of melancholy hinges on the outskirts of this release’s horizons. In fact, a culminating, if not obligatory traditional French-style post-black metal and shoegaze song carries this album to a triumphant conclusion with the track “Momentum”. Nearly an Alcest shoutout, this track should ring strong to any newcomers to the genre and is strongly reminiscent of the iconic French black metal sound. The stark contrast between crushing heaviness, melancholic riffing, and even ambient electronic breaks keeps this release interesting and driving forwards without sinking into the trap of monotony that many amateur black metal musicians do.

Lethargic Breakthrough is available via Mourning Light Records on Halloween 2018.

For HorrorAddicts.net, this is Jeffrey Kohld Kelly

Ein online:

https://www.facebook.com/EinBlackMetal

Purchase Lethargic Breakthrough:

https://mourninglightrecords.com/shop?olsPage=products%2Fein-lethargic-breakthrough

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Kittens in a Blender

Why are there kittens? Why are they in a blender? Good questions, but shelve your disbelief for one moment and embrace the fact that you will be putting kittens in a blender and gleefully pressing the big red button.

Kittens in a Blender is a party game for 2-8 players (ages 8+, otherwise there are too many tears) and takes about thirty minutes to play.

Game Play

First, choose a color. The many, many kittens are divided into teams by color. Your objective is to save the kittens of your team and shred everyone else’s.

Next, shuffle the deck of cards and deal a hand to each player. Kittens in a Blender contains several types of cards for players to use: Kitten cards, Movement cards, and Blend cards. On their turn, each player must play exactly two cards.

There are three play areas: the blender, the counter, and the box. Kitten cards are played in any of these areas and moved using Move cards. If a kitten is in the blender when any player plays a Blend card, that kitten is blended and removed from the game. If a kitten is in the box when a Blend card is played, then the kitten is saved and placed under the box for safe-keeping. When all the Blend cards have been played, the players count the total number of their kittens that were saved and the person with the most wins.

Game Experience

There is a lot of cringing involved in playing Kittens in a Blender. Am I really the type of person who sends adorable kittens to their doom? After a few rounds, you get over that feeling and start murdering cats with no remorse.

The game creators seem to revel in this. Rather than supplying generic kitten cards, each one has an adorable name and picture to match. Over time, players gain attachments to certain kitties (my favorite is a bulldog-faced kitten named Princess), to the point where they will sacrifice others of their own to save a favorite.

The adorable art style underlines the macabre humor of the game. Each kitten is equally loveable and undeserving of its fate. You’re just a monster for playing this game and worse for enjoying it.

Final Thoughts

I know what you’re thinking: is Kittens in a Blender really a horror game? I guess that depends on who answers, but if you were to ask my 9 year-old cousin, my mother-in-law, or several of my more innocent friends, the idea of putting even fake kittens into a blender and hitting the button is plenty horrific. But, if that doesn’t bother you, then maybe you’re the perfect person to play the game.

Book Review: Lost Highways edited by D. Alexander Ward

Roads are, by design, a space in between — between cities, between the looming wilds on either side of the pavement, or between two versions of oneself. They exist in a perpetual state of flux. Millions of people pass along highways, driving through towns and lives they will never know and through stories stranger than they can imagine.

Lost Highways is an anthology of short stories and artwork edited by D. Alexander Ward and presents 20 stories that you’ll never see from the safety of the passenger seat.

The stories are equal parts entertaining and enlightening. No two ever present the same theme, stretching the anthology’s premise of roads and highways to the limits of connectivity. Each author interpreted the theme in a novel and inspiring way.

Lost Highways was gripping throughout. It presents a wide array of styles within the horror genre: philosophical musings, psychological terror, gruesome violence, and tingling suspense. At no point did I consider a story to be predictable.

Though the anthology is superb from start to finish, several stories stood out to me while reading. “A Life that is not Mine” by Kristi Demeester presented a bleak look at life where the road is both a prison and an escape. Demeester’s writing was haunting and the prose almost lyrical. “The Heart Stops at the end of Laurel Lane” by Jess Landry (an alumni of the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Contest!) straddled the line between harrowing and heart wrenching and left me reeling through each new revelation. “Outrunning the End” by Cullen Bunn was a trippy experiment in fiction that blurred the lines of reality on the page. These are my favorites, but each story is excellent in its own way and all the contributors should be commended for their work.

Overall, Lost Highways is an expertly curated collection of the best that horror has to offer. I highly recommend taking a look. If you’re especially brave, you might consider making it your companion on a long road trip.

FRIGHTENING FLIX by Kbatz: Tales from the Darkside Season 1

The Tales from the Darkside Debut Still Has Memorable Frights

by Kristin Battestella

 

The late George A. Romero produced the 1984-85 syndicated debut of Tales from the Darkside, a twenty-three episode anthology of original and short story adaptations with familiar faces and plenty of memorable half-hour frights. The Complete Series DVD set, however, begins with the original 1983 “Trick or Treat” pilot written by Romero and starring Bernard Hughes (The Lost Boys) as a Scrooge-like lender profiting from the ruin of others with his to the penny bookkeeping. His wealth is in money bags instead of banks, and come Halloween, he hides the IOUs from his desperate share croppers for their children to find and thus absolve their family’s debt. Parents drum up their scared children to brave the annual house of horrors and the devilish wizard behind the curtain orchestration. Justly, the turnabout on this modern Dickensian spin is fair play when real horrors best our miser at his own game. More businessmen are smoking cigars and offered scotch to celebrate the latest deal in “The New Man.” Unfortunately, when a little boy shows up at the office telling his father to come home, the man doesn’t recognize him – unlike his wife and older son, who are appalled by dad’s mistake and refer to an alcoholic history of repeated moves and lost jobs. His life spirals back to the bottle in a surreal mix of horror and addiction, and though confusing with distorted timelines and resets, the real life consequences remain relatable. More cocktails, limousines, bribery, and homicide anchor “I’ll Give You a Million” as two sophisticated old gentlemen play billiards and raise the stakes to a million dollars for one’s soul. Is it tomfoolery to bet on a nonexistent property or is there something to a bad liver, senile behavior, and foul play clauses in the contract? A terminal diagnosis, however, changes the with interest and buy back offers on the deal as storms, power outages, and fatal phone calls set off the Marley-esque visitations. Likewise doctor Farley Grainger (Strangers on a Train) has a radical solution to a laid up husband’s back problem in “Pain Killer.” Muscle relaxers, two weeks off from work, and acupuncture are to no avail – but maybe its his nagging wife that’s really the constant pain…

Some Tales from the Darkside episodes have similar financial bargains and devilish killers, however such pay it forward macabre creates a connective undercurrent for the anthology, and a mysterious man in a white suit breaks the bookies with his lucky streak in “The Odds.” The back booth seedy and congested, smoky mood forgive the colloquial betting talk as the ticking clock counts down when the fatal stakes are due. In “Slippage,” a graphic artist loses his birth certificate, paycheck, and portfolio. His reunion invitation never comes either, and it’s almost as if he doesn’t exist at all when his yearbook photo disappears. No one, not even his wife, remembers him – but is it a set up or the supernatural? Horror make up artist turned director Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead) brings the creepy hands, terrible eyes, and ghoulish reveal for “Inside the Closet” as taxidermy and a small locked closet in a rented room live up to the Tales from the Darkside name alongside skeleton keys, mouse traps, and spooky dolls. Slide protectors, atmospheric music, under the bed shadows, and swift editing for the creature attacks elevate this warped twist. Meek out of work writer Bruce Davidson (X2) wishes his late genius nephew was his in fellow Creepshow collaborator Stephen King’s “The Word Processor of the Gods,” and the boy’s custom built word processor has an execute button convenient for creating Spanish doubloons – as well as one big red delete key that comes in really handy. Retro text, warning phone calls, fearful confrontations, and fiery overloads accent the consequences while Bibles and organ music set the funeral scene in Robert Bloch’s (Psycho) “A Case of the Stubborns.” Unfortunately for young Christian Slater (Mr. Robot) and Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation), grandpa Eddie Bracken (Hail the Conquering Hero) doesn’t recollect being dead and is too stubborn to admit it despite no heartbeat and a death certificate. The too much rouge becomes pasty skin peeling and the Board of Health doesn’t like the smell, but the local voodoo woman offers a solution – pepper.

 

Tarot readings for a deceptive old lady swapping the card decks spells doom for Dorothy Lyman (Mama’s Family) in “In the Cards.” The desperation increases as thrown away cards reappear and even setting the deck on fire can’t prevent the tellings foretold. Are these predictions coming true a gift or a curse? Disbelievers and rival madams combine here for a mystical meets real world darkness. At least nagging wife Alice Ghostley (Bewitched) knows the way to her husband’s heart is his favorite stew in “Anniversary Dinner.” It’s the empty nesters’ twenty-fifth, and they take in a young hiker, offering her a celebratory sherry in their hidden room with a hot tub and some taxidermy. Sure, this one is obvious, but Tales from the Darkside serves up a twisted good time nonetheless when a drunken teacher tells off the headmaster because he’s going to win the lottery in “Snip, Snip” thanks to the perfect number – 666. Unfortunately, 667 rewards hairdresser Carol Kane (Taxi), and a talkative parakeet named Lucifer interrupts an attempt to steal her winning ticket. Appearances, however, are deceiving, and the tense but sardonic banter questions which spirits truly have the answers – astrology or distilled. Then again, a little horseshoe phone never looked so ominous as in one of my Tales from the Darkside favorites “Answer Me,” where subletting Jean Marsh (Upstairs, Downstairs) hears the incessant ringing of her neighbor’s telephone. The apartment’s been empty since the last tenant died, and the casual, effortless talking to oneself turns into frantic chatter as the noise next door won’t stop. Increasingly dark rooms, scary shadows, and twisted telephone cords live up to the series name in this taut one woman play. For “Madness Room,” an older man, his younger wife, and their handsome lawyer uncover tales of murder and treasure maps via a Ouija board, and the sophisticated puzzle builds with a little drywall demolition, secret doors, a one hundred year old diary, and some ghostly gun play on the comeuppance. Likewise “If the Shoes Fit…” puts a political candidate in an eerie hotel on his latest campaign stop where his tactic is to gain votes by making people smile. The charm, of course, is all for show, and he admits the pomp and circumstance is all so the best actor can win. Ironically, this circus commentary on politics, clown suit and all, remains a surprisingly relevant farce.

Though seemingly hokey with carnival magicians and harmless tricks, “Levitation” has a few surprises up its sleeve with fatal magic and foolish teens wanting to know all the behind the scenes secrets. There’s a sorrow amid the throwing knives, applause, and slight of hand – but our heckler gets what he wishes for when a little ‘Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board’ goes awry. The very expensive laundry service in “It All Comes Out in the Wash” guarantees the rinsing of a customer’s sin and guilt, leaving pleased with themselves clientele free to divorce or order vendettas while waiting on the latest laundry delivery. Unfortunately, when the prices triple and the order is late, one’s soul may be the final cost for services rendered. Quitting smoking has also never been tougher than in “Bigalow’s Last Smoke.” This high tech cage has bars on the windows, a television watching you, and punishments for striking a match. The only way out of the full proof program is to stop smoking – making for another memorable and psychologically chilling Tales from the Darkside parable via the most common addiction concepts. “Grandma’s Last Wish” also tackles the horrors of reality with ungratefulness, aging, and ageism. When this obnoxious family ignores Grandma, they learn what it’s like to be old in this witty turnabout. The bus station at Christmas is filled with superstitious warnings, almost walking under a ladder, tea leaves, and horoscopes in “The False Prophet” season finale. A fortune telling machine predicts a gullible Ronee Blakley (A Nightmare on Elm Street) will meet the love of her life on this trip. However a newer, futuristic male voiced machine wants her to get touchy feely for his advice, warning her to beware of false prophets when a flashy minister arrives with all the platitudes. Which one should she believe? Eerie lighting, personality, and wolf in sheep’s clothing subtext top off the unlucky deceptions.

Of course in this lengthy season of old Tales from the Darkside has a lot of hours to fill, and a few meh plots stray into the offbeat or weird rather than fitting the series’ spooky theme. The eponymous boy and girl twins of “Mookie and Pookie” address newfangled computer ghost in the machine fears with Justine Bateman (Family Ties) and Tippi Hedron (The Birds) the same way The Twilight Zone addressed spaceflight paranoia. However, the giant old PC, radical programs putting the brother in the network, and a dad not down with the tech times are totally hokey today. Colleen Camp (Clue) and all-star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also can’t save Harlan Ellison’s (Star Trek’s “The City on the Edge of Forever”) “Djinn, No Chaser.” The straight jacket asides and to the screen therapy confessions compete with the flashback recounting a genie lamp, disembodied voices, and silly objects flying about the room. What could have been a cautionary wish fulfillment tale stalls with flat humor bordering on the ridiculous. “All a Clone by the Telephone” boasts agent Dick Miller (Night of the Creeps) and down on his luck writer Harry Anderson (Night Court), but the too cool for school little answering machine with a better life of its own takes itself too seriously to be avante garde bizarre. Likewise, perpetually emotional Jessica Harper (Suspiria) meets the mysterious Victor Garber (Legends of Tomorrow) who can capture her teardrops with his ancient Chinese wisdoms in “The Tear Collector.” The glass swan vessels, tear trophy rooms, and consequences for breaking the collection seem to build toward something, but all the ominous tears and broken glass just end up…happy? Boo, hiss! Fortunately, dark lighting, green hues, and shadow schemes do fit the eerie alongside nostalgic animatronics, old school prosthetics, and classic horror make up. Without a huge budget or today’s film making technology, Tales from the Darkside does a lot with less – and the series didn’t need anything beyond those smoke and mirrors, thunderstorms, and distorted voice effects creating its sinister mood. Sure, some obvious sets may be cramped or barren, but that lends to a stage-like parable and other episodes make the most of outdoor scenes. Several entries may have a period or old fashioned setting, but the slightly earlier seventies feeling makes it tough to tell what’s past or present and no dates are given to break the warped reality. Then again, the boob tubes, rabbit ears, Walkmans, waterbeds, VCRs, and Ma Bell accent the prophetic talk of computers being the way of the future. Forget the diskettes, typewriters, retro kitchens, and dated patterns! I’ll take some of those vintage hundred dollar bills though, and look at those eighties yuppies talking a stroll down memory lane with their 1965 yearbook!

While some of the Seasonal DVD releases have music rights issues and the Complete Series set is packaged somewhat plainly, there is a commentary from Romero included with “Trick or Treat,” and Tales from the Darkside is also currently available on Shudder. The series may not be super famous to younger horror fans, but mention Tales from the Darkside to us of a certain age and you hear tell of an opening theme that terrified youngins back in the day. Its pretty sunshine, happy trees, and rustic imagery turn black, white, and red – a negative image with sinister notes to match narrator Paul Sparer’s warning of the dark underworld therein where we must doubt all we believe. Such bleak is immediately immersive compared to the dark comedy or more fantastic comic book tone of Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt. This debut is dated, often weird, usually unexplained, and not without hiccups. It hurts the series that audiences today have seen it all and may find the twists boring. However, Tales from the Darkside’s First Season makes the most of its old school effects and vintage style for heaps of atmosphere and memorable harbingers.

 

MUSIC REVIEW – Empathy Test

By Jeffrey Kohld Kelly

After just completing a successful UK tour, it seems all to right to take a look at London synthpop artist Empathy Test’s remastered album “Losing Touch”. Empathy Test is not a newcomer to the electronic scene by any means, but their novel mainstream recognition within various electronic subcultures arguably happened overnight. The nostalgic and dreamy synth lines have gathered fierce attention from ravers and industrial rivetheads alike, each respectively identifying with some captivating aspect of this band’s truly panoramic discography.

To pin this band to a singular genre would be a disservice to the musicians and fans alike; drawing noted influence from post-punk and new wave artists, Empathy Test stands tall in a classification of their own, standing out proudly against other bands who simply fall into the category of new wave revival. Not a revival band in the slightest, Empathy Test’s music is charged with bright innovation, markedly with vocalist Isaac Howlett’s gentle, songbird-style vocals. A complex, yet effective atmosphere compliments all of their songs, begging to not be confined to the restriction of headphones alone. Indeed, this music is something that deserves to be experienced to its full capacity live if at all possible.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a chance to hear the yet unreleased “Incubation Song” from Empathy Test’s upcoming EP at their live performance in Manchester England, and while I can’t share that song with you today I can promise you that you’ll love it. Building on their own musical concepts, Empath Test continues to innovate and reach to broader horizons with this upcoming release, and we can see nothing but the best for them.

You can pre-order Empath Test’s upcoming EP “Holy Rivers | Incubation Song” featuring remixes by The New Division and Man Without Country on their Bandcamp profile. The EP will be released worldwide on Halloween, 2018.

For HorrorAddicts.net, this is Jeffrey Kohld Kelly

Holy Rivers | Incubation Song on Bandcamp:

https://empathy-test.bandcamp.com/album/holy-rivers-incubation-song

Empathy Test online:

https://www.empathytest.com/

https://www.facebook.com/empathytest/

 

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Werebeasts

Game Review: WereBeasts

Introduction

Do you love werewolves? Do you wish you had a game with more than just werewolves? There’s a whole world of crazy beasts out there. Werekittens, wereclowns, werezombies, weresharks, wereghosts, werehouses… Excellent.

Werebeasts is a card collecting party game for 3-10 players and takes about fifteen minutes to play.

Game Play

At the beginning, each player is secretly given two goal cards. These are the werebeasts that they will try to collect throughout the game.

During their turn, a player can accuse another player of having a specific goal card. If they guess correctly, the other is removed from the game and the player get their cards. Guess carefully, however, because if you’re wrong, you are removed from the game and the accused get your cards.

After leveraging their accusations (if any), the player then draws a card face up. Other players bid on the card using the cards in front of them. Players try to collect their assigned goals without giving away what their goals are.

Whoever has the most beasts of their goal type when the game ends wins.

Game Experience

Werebeasts is suited to younger players as a card collection game. It is also good for older audiences who want a simple party game.

You would think that it would be easy to guess what others are trying to collect. Not so. Once players know what to look for, they know how to cover their tracks. The secret to Werebeasts is to know the other players. The dynamic changes over time, making Werebeasts an increasingly difficult game of bluffs.

Werebeasts has a simple set up, with a few sets of cards and pieces. All of these are well made and exceptionally detailed. The cards are sturdy and would stand up well to a lot of play time (including by children). The art style suits the game premise, as a cross between cartoon-cute and mock horror.

Final Thoughts

Werebeasts is a good party game for a large crowd. It is a fast, easy game to learn. I thought that it would be overly simplistic, but it was surprisingly engaging.